Submitted by Afroza Haque
7 Dec 2023

Bangladesh holds its second National Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Humanitarian Action

Bangladesh’s 2nd National Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Humanitarian Action was held in Dhaka on 26-27 September 2023. Hosted by the Anticipatory Action Technical Working Group under the leadership of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, the central theme was ‘Scaling up anticipatory humanitarian action for sustainable development’. The event was designed to inspire, unite and promote anticipatory action that is conducive to achieving this.

Anticipatory action is gaining huge interest among humanitarian agencies, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, the UN system, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international NGOs. Over 200 people took part in the 2nd National Dialogue Platform, coming from 26 organizations working on anticipatory action, as well as various government ministries and departments, including the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief and the National Taskforce. There were also representatives from academic institutions, communities and the media. Together, they presented their progress, challenges and best practices towards scaling up anticipatory action in the country, and with incorporating this approach into new fields and for additional hazards, such as landslides, riverbank erosion and lightning storms.

Through active participation by the government and practitioners in Bangladesh, the 2nd National Dialogue Platform was a chance to find better ways to collaborate and to define a roadmap that included a strategy and commitments from the government; this in turn will accelerate a systemwide shift towards anticipating disasters, rather than responding to them. “This National Dialogue Platform brought together all anticipatory action stakeholders, including government, the UN, international NGOS and NGOs, to achieve a common shared goal to reduce human suffering and mitigate the loss of life and livelihood by acting proactively rather than reactively,” said Md. Shahjahan, the lead and coordinator of the Anticipatory Action Technical Working Group.

The 2nd National Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Humanitarian Action in Bangladesh [in] 2023 was a dynamic forum for robust discussions, collaborations and initiatives aimed at elevating anticipatory humanitarian efforts in the country.

K.M. Abdul Wadud Additional-Secretary, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, and chair of the Forecast-based Financing Taskforce, which leads anticipatory action at the government level

Achievements to date – and plans for the future

During the National Dialogue Platform, members of the Technical Working Group highlighted some of Bangladesh’s major achievements to date. These include the inclusion of forecast-based financing (an approach to anticipatory action) in the Standing Orders on Disaster in 2019 and in the government’s strategic plan for 2021-2025. The event also saw the official launch of the National Cyclone Early Action Protocol (EAP), while national-level EAP for floods will be finalized soon.

Participants from other organizations highlighted ongoing challenges, which relate to a lack of data for certain hazards, a lack of forecast skill, and the need for coordination when scaling up anticipatory action from the district level to the national level.

There were also opportunities to outline future plans and activities. Priorities noted by the participants included:

  • the need for increased awareness, sensitization and capacity development among community volunteer groups
  • continuity in the collection of field data and updates to existing databases, as well as data analysis and validation
  • the installation of more rain gauges to increase the precision of rainfall data
  • the installation of sensors for monitoring landmass displacement
  • a 10-year roadmap and standard operating procedure for anticipatory action ahead of landslides
  • the inclusion of shock-responsive social protection in anticipatory action
  • increased local-level participation (e.g., district, upazila, union) in national-level events such as the dialogue platforms.

The 2nd National Dialogue Platform is not an isolated event; it is part of a global effort to drive anticipatory humanitarian action forward.

Kazi Shofiqul Azam Secretary-General, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society

Government-level commitment to anticipatory action

Another significant outcome from Bangladesh’s 2nd National Dialogue Platform was the government’s commitment to strengthen anticipatory action in the country to reduce losses and damages. Ahmadul Haque, director of the Cyclone Preparedness Programme, stated that “anticipatory actions transfigure readiness to response by a timely forecast. We could gather all humanitarian actors to construct a figure of minimal loss and damage by focusing on not just lives, but livelihoods”.

The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, the lead organizer of the event, also led the declaration of the government’s shared responsibility and commitment to anticipatory action. The declarations announced were as follows:

  1. Continue to promote, strengthen and optimize the concept and application of anticipatory action and early response.
  2. Engage the Anticipatory Action Taskforce and Anticipatory Action Technical Working Group to work in collaboration with all actors and relevant government ministries and departments to explore more opportunities for anticipatory action.
  3. Develop national EAPs and link them with the National Plan for Disaster Management.
  4. Develop a disaster risk management strategy.
  5. Promote evidence-based research in anticipatory action.
  6. Work with all development, climate change and humanitarian agencies to explore funding opportunities for anticipatory action and incorporate funding mechanisms into the government’s risk-management financing system.
  7. Ensure early warnings for all, with a special emphasis on impact-based forecasting.
  8.  Enhance the capacity and skill of the disaster management committees, and of national and local actors.

Gaurav Ray, a senior representative at the German Red Cross’s Bangladesh delegation, noted that the government’s declarations must be followed up with an annual roadmap, and with dedicated resources for anticipatory action within its emergency response mechanisms. In his closing remarks, he stressed three points: “One, a positive past – with investment in the right direction [thanks to] donors such as the Federal Foreign Office, Germany, and early innovators and risk-takers, such as the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, the German Red Cross, the IFRC and the World Food Programme; two, a challenging current – [we] need to continue to be grounded in reality, address vulnerabilities, use appropriate science and technology, [and] be simple, nimble and sharp; and three, amazing/potential future – be future-ready, continue [the] collective approach, learn from failures, coordinate, and communicate at all levels.”

Be future-ready, continue the collective approach, learn from failures, coordinate and communicate at all levels.

Gaurav Ray Senior representative, German Red Cross in Bangladesh

Article by Afroza Haque, project delegate - forecast-based financing / anticipation, German Red Cross, and Tahera Akter, senior officer, German Red Cross.

All photos by the Forecast-based Financing/Action Taskforce and the Anticipatory Action Technical Working Group.